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SF Glens, Olympic Club to join Oakland Soul in new USL W League NorCal Division


With the FIFA Men’s World Cup taking center stage this month and the Women’s World Cup just around the corner, eight Northern California clubs are riding that momentum into 2023 by announcing a new women’s league today.

Six clubs — the San Francisco Glens, the Olympic Club, Marin FC, Pleasanton Rage, California Storm, and Academica SC of Turlock — will join existing expansion clubs Oakland Soul and Stockton Cargo in the USL W League NorCal Division next year.

The USL, or United Soccer League, is pushing two national women’s leagues — the W League and Super League — as a way to enter the market but also to offer more playing opportunities, which are still few and far between despite the deep talent pool of female players nationwide. The pre-professional W League is in the fourth division on the American soccer pyramid and caters primarily to the top college and Under-23 players. On the other hand, the USL Super League will launch in 2024 in the professional second division underneath the existing first-division National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

“The establishment of a NorCal Division is a watershed moment for the W League,” said Amanda Vandervort, USL Super League and W League President. “Paired with our Northwest Division, the W League’s footprint is now truly national, which is what we’ve always envisioned.”

The addition of the Northern California octet will bring the number of W League clubs above 60, according to Joel Nash, USL VP of youth and pre-professional properties.

Moreover, the arrival of the Glens and Soul — the Oakland Roots’ W League affiliate — is especially noteworthy since both clubs have publicly stated their intention to possibly ascend into the USL Super League once their respective venue situations are resolved. The Glens, whose men’s team in USL League Two played at Skyline College last season, have already broken ground on their own stadium at Treasure Island. Conversely, the Soul/Roots contingent is looking for a more permanent home in Oakland than the one they currently rent at Laney College.

In addition, with the “NWSL to the Bay” bid to attract a first-division women’s soccer team headed by local legends like Brandi Chastain — herself a former player for the Storm — it’s possible the Bay Area could go from zero women’s pro teams to three in a short span of time. For

the record, the Hayward-based FC Gold Pride of the now-defunct WPS league ceased operations in 2010.

The landscape is a lot different today for women’s pro soccer, however. Over 91,000 paying customers came to the Camp Nou to watch reigning Globe Soccer Player of the Year Alexis Putellas and Barcelona defeat archrival Real Madrid back in March. This summer, a projected cumulative 365 million live viewers tuned in for the Women’s Euro 2022. Stateside, the NWSL drew a league-record 1,042,063 fans this season, with 32,000 spectators taking in Alex Morgan’s San Diego Wave take on Angel City FC just three months ago.

“We’re thrilled to be taking the next steps in realizing our vision for soccer in Oakland, a sport that should be open and accessible to everyone,” said Lindsay Barenz, Oakland Roots and Oakland Soul president.

The Glens’ club structure differs from the Soul/Roots in that beneath their USL W League and USL League Two teams is a full-fledged youth academy, the largest in The City with over 1,100 players. Admission to the W League also came with an optional spot in the USL Academy, an Under-20 league for top youth players.

“This is a big step for Northern California soccer as a whole, but for us, establishing a first team in the W League and a U20 team in the USL Academy adds two vital stages toward completing our women’s pathway. It shows we’re committed to building our girls ’program and gives San Francisco youth players role models to aspire to,” said SF Glens women’s director Jessica Hewins.

The Glens won’t be the only W League club based in The City. The Olympic Club, which was founded in 1860 and has fielded locally competitive women’s soccer teams since 2002, will be their new crosstown rivals.

“It’s absolutely vital that we have a robust and high-quality league like this on a national level and we’re honored to get to play a role in making that happen here in Northern California,” said Olympic Club athletic director Nick Lusson.

 

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